Manchester United have officially agreed a deal to sign French World Cup winner Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. The impending arrival of Varane has already sent fans into frenzy mode, with many believing the Frenchman to be the perfect partner for Harry Maguire.
United’s greatest ever manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, once said: “Attack wins you games, but defence wins you titles.” Defensive dominance was always the foundation of Ferguson’s title-winning squads.
The centre-back position has always had success when it has formed a complementing partnership rather than the presence of two extraordinary defenders. The potential Maguire-Varane partnership also has complementary skills that could help the Red Devils form another great partnership.
The Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire Partnership Could Help Manchester United End their Title Drought
An Upgrade on Victor Lindelof
At 6’3″, Varane will be one of the tallest players in the team and the second tallest centre-back behind Maguire. Varane uses his strength very well while defending. He rarely gets bullied by attackers and can stand his own against the strongest of them. Years of training alongside Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have exposed Varane against one of the most potent attacking lines in football history.
One of Victor Lindelof’s biggest criticisms at Manchester United has been his lack of pace. The Swede often finds himself struggling against quicker opponents and also struggles to get back into position or make recovery runs once the attacker has the better of him.
Varane is a quick defender. The Frenchman has the pace to match up against the quickest of the lot and also possesses a good recovery pace. Playing alongside Kylian Mbappe, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele and other speedsters in the French national team has already exposed Varane to some of the fastest players in the world.
On the technical side, Varane is second to none when compared with other elite defenders. He is good with the ball at his feet and also has brilliant technical abilities. He is calm and composed under pressure and also good in the air with a wide range of passes in his arsenal. Varane has a better record while defending set-pieces and open-play headers and has the ability to go further up the pitch while on the attack, but often chooses to sit back and allow his partner to make forward runs.
Varane Adds Better Cover when Maguire goes Further Up the Pitch
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes his Manchester United squad to maintain a high line and play further up the pitch. He expects the Red Devils to play a high-pressure system. This is almost similar to the system played in Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane. Varane can easily transition to Manchester United style due to these similarities.
In Madrid, Ramos played as the aggressive defender of the two. The Spaniard often initiated attacks from defence and broke into midfield whenever the opportunity occurred. Harry Maguire also has some similarities to Ramos. But whenever United tried to implement the system last season, they often found themselves in precarious positions. The lack of pace in the Lindelof-Maguire partnership handicapped the Red Devils in transition defence.
Raphael Varane joins the Red Devils with the knowledge of having already played in a similar system with a similar defensive partner. Ramos’ attacking instincts and ball carrying often resulted in Varane playing as the deep central defender. This has seen the Frenchman act as the last man on defence during opposition counterattacks.
These are situations in which Raphael Varane truly stands out. Varane is a master in transition defence. He is an astute reader of the game and a brilliant defender. The 28-year-old rarely lunges into tackles and waits patiently for the attackers to make mistakes. Varane likes to defend the area rather than the attacker. He breaks up play often and pushes the attackers to less dangerous areas on the pitch. He uses his anticipation and brilliant positional sense while defending and only resorts to challenges if necessary.
That does not mean that Varane struggles against quick attackers. The Frenchman himself is quick. He possesses great recovery pace and has made last-ditch challenges whenever required. His supreme athleticism and physical prowess have been one of his key strengths in transition defence.
Raphael Varane Has Always Thrived Alongside a Dominant Partner
This may come as a surprise to many, but Varane playing as the sole dominant defender has led the Frenchman to commit some serious errors in the past. A glance into his Real Madrid career reveals that the 28-year-old has made more mistakes while playing without Sergio Ramos. It has been the same case for France. When alongside Samuel Umtiti he has looked good, but next to Presnel Kimpembe, he has looked a bit shaky.
At Manchester United, Raphael Varane has a similar partner. Maguire may not be in the same stratosphere as Ramos, but in his own way, he is a very dominant centre-back. Like Ramos, Maguire has great leadership qualities and takes it upon himself to drive his team forward. His playing style has always helped Lindelof in playing with better composure and under less pressure. Varane could also thrive under similar circumstances. The Frenchman isn’t the type of defender who likes to be in the spotlight.
A Better Defensive Partner in Aerial Duels
Manchester United, for a while, have struggled to cope with aerial pressure. The arrival of Harry Maguire sorted some of their issues during aerial threats. But Lindelof’s poor success rate in aerial duels have left Manchester United in a spot of bother in certain circumstances.
As mentioned before, Varane is a stronger defender compared to Lindelof. The Frenchman can stand his own ground and is not easily bullied. The 28-year-old is also much better in the air compared to the Sweden international. He has won 4.1 aerial duels compared to Lindelof’s 1.3 last season. He is also equally good in set-piece situations as well as in open plays.
A Winning Mentality
Last but not least, Varane provides a winning mentality. The Frenchman has won 19 trophies in his career so far, including the World Cup. He is yet to lose a final in his trophy-filled career.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have not won a major title in four years.
His defensive partner has also not tasted any success in his career. Varane would provide more experience to the Manchester United defensive line. He will also have the necessary mindset when playing in must-win matches and cup finals. The Frenchman can provide a competitive edge over any opponent.